Workshop in Singapore

I will spend the next week visiting Singapore, where Vivian Chen, from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in Nanyang Technological University has put together an interesting international seminar focused on games and play, particularly from the perspective of eSports phenomena. Together with several esteemed colleagues, I also will give a talk there; mine is titled “Evolution and Tensions in Gaming Communities”.

Since I have not found the full program online, I will share the most recent draft that I have, below (this might be a ‘by-invitation-only’ event, though?) – looking forward to interesting dialogues, with academic researchers, gamers and practitioners, alike:

Digital Colosseums: Competitive Video Gaming as Mass Entertainment

Workshop/Conference Schedule (draft, as of 01 Feb 2018)

Day 1: 8th February 2018
0900 Registration
0930 Opening and Introduction


Prof. KK Luke, Nanyang Technological University

Associate Prof. Vivian Chen, Nanyang Technological University



Max Sjöblom, Tampere University of Technology


e-Sports: The New Face of Game Media

–        e-Sports as a concept and phenomenon has existed for close to 20 years, but only in recent years has e-sports transitioned to the mainstream, partially due to another emerging form of online media: game streaming and game video production. The talk will focus around three main topics.


Firstly, the general concept of e-sports will be presented, and we will explore the motivations for consuming e-sports, both online and through live attendance. This will be based on quantitative research published in venues such as Computers in Human Behavior and Internet Research, conducted by Sjöblom.


Secondly, we will delve into the world of game streaming (Twitch) and game videos (YouTube), from both the producer and consumer side. We will look at consumption motivations from the consumer side, while from the producer side, we will investigate the affordances used by producers, as well as the motivating factors behind their behavior.


Thirdly, we will go into more speculative thoughts about the future of e-sports and game media.



1015 Coffee break


Mia Consalvo, Concordia University


The business and culture of live streaming on Twitch: Evolving paradigms

–        This talk draws from a multi-year investigation of live streaming on the internet site, where individuals can broadcast themselves playing videogames to a global audience. This investigation began with a seemingly simple question: how does live streaming change the act of gameplay?


To find answers, a team of researchers has identified and viewed dozens of streamers and hundreds of hours of gameplay, interviewed both casual and committed streamers, including those who see it as their full time job as well as a hobby, live streamed their own gameplay to understand the affordances and constraints of the process, and also investigated the larger culture of live streaming and the business of Twitch and its related industry.


This research — and the talk — explain how live streaming is a constantly evolving practice and Twitch itself is a key business engaged in monetizing play in particular ways. It examines who streams and why, how gameplay practices like success, failure, skill and persistence are re-shaped by live streaming, and how the business practices of not just Twitch but related companies are re-forming play and players in concerning ways. These practices are related to the rise of the gig economy and precarious labor more broadly, as well as the increasing role of technology and always online connectivity in our daily lives.



1100 PANEL 1 (Industry)


Facilitator Intro

–        Ryan Tan – eSports Director (Avalon), Coach and Manager (Duskbin eSports), Community Manager (Garena)


The role of online streaming and casting in e-sports

–        Mohan “Lorec” Deitrich – e-sports media and stream manager

–        Leonard “OMO” Loh – e-sports caster and team manager

–        Ruth Lim (SCOGA Coach)

–        Maria Kristin Braberry – Competitive Gamer (Asterisk*) and Narrative Designer (BattleBrew Productions)



1230 Lunch


Nicholas Khoo – Chairman & Co-Founder, SCOGA


e-sports in Singapore



Steven “Amzeyy” Koh – Avalon eSports Pro-gamer


e-sports in SEA



Amitesh Rao, Nova Games


The challenges of building e-sports communities in emerging markets

–        India is a country with over a billion people, 4 million active PC gamers, and nearly 100 million mobile gamers. Yet the gaming industry remains embryonic, fragmented and largely undeveloped. E-sports in particular has been touted to be the next big thing for several years now but has yet to garner the attention, engagement and viewership that insiders in the industry have been hoping for.


There are several challenges which I believe are not unique to India but to several emerging economies that are keeping the inflection point at bay — infrastructural, economic, and cultural. This presentation will investigate some of the challenges, and possible solutions to them that are needed to build healthy, robust and self-sustaining eSports communities in emerging markets.

1530 Tea/Refreshment break
1600 PANEL 2: Bridging research and practices


–        Leonard “OMO” Loh – e-sports caster and team manager

–        Ruth Lim (SCOGA Coach)

–        Nicholas Khoo – Chairman & Co-Founder, SCOGA

–        Steven “Amzeyy” Koh – Avalon eSports Pro-gamer

–        Maria Braberry – Pro-gamer & Narrative Designer

–        Amitesh Rao, Nova Games

–        Mia Consalvo, Concordia University

–        Max Sjoblom, Tampere University of Technology

–        Olli Tapio Leino, City University of Hong Kong


Facilitators: Vivian Chen and Ryan Tan

1700 Closing remarks & Photo taking
1800 Networking dinner


Day 2: 9th February 2018
0930 Registration & Opening

Vivian Chen, NTU



Frans Mäyrä, University of Tampere


Evolution and Tensions in Gaming Communities

–        e-Sports is one of the most notable social phenomena around digital games in the 21st century. There are large audiences involved; e.g., it was reported that the “Intel Extreme Masters World Championship 2017” event reached more than 46 million unique online viewers, and that there were more than 173,000 attendees participating live in Katowice, Poland. But are these phenomena rooted, or promoting genuine community formation — and what constitutes a “gaming community”, more generally?


In his talk, Professor Frans Mäyrä will have a look at research and outline whether games are capable of supporting true communities, and talk about the consequences of such gaming communities or social formations, including both game-internal consequences, and for societal life, outside of the gaming reality. Referring to some recent studies about game playing in culture and society, and of e-sports, the talk will conclude with reflections about the multifaceted character of participation in game cultures, also dealing with the tensions and potential for cultural conflicts that it can contain.



1015 Coffee break


Olli Tapio Leino, City University of Hong Kong


Commodified technological play/work: eSports, free-to-play, and gamification

–        Traditional theories of play (e.g., Huizinga, Fink, Callois, Suits) consider play as free, frivolous, and creative experimentation, non-productive and risk-free in regard to anything apart from itself. For example, Fink described play as an “oasis of happiness”, offering a respite to individuals burdened by hardships of productive activities. Through encounters with contemporary forms of “commodified play”, such as e-sports, free-to-play games, and gamification applications, computer game studies has come to terms with the fact that the traditional notions of games, play, and playing appear romantic, and may not always be applicable for the purpose of defining and describing contemporary forms of technological play.


In more detail, on the one hand, the technological materiality of computer games does not always afford the creative self-discovery at the heart of play and may instead give rise only to rote repetition formally indistinguishable from unskilled work.  On the other hand, the ways in which contemporary forms of computer gaming are culturally and economically entangled with useful endeavors in society renders inapplicable the description of play as non-productive.


In this talk, I draw upon the recent research on computer games by myself and my collaborators, including mixed-method ethnography on gamers, research for public policy on gaming, and, textual-hermeneutic studies of computer games. I describe how contemporary forms of commodified play challenge the traditional definitions and descriptions of play, how gamers negotiate the slippage between play and work in their experiences, and, how the society is beginning to embrace this new, productive form of play/work.





Patrick Williams, NTU, and Csilla Weninger, NIE


Youth Cultures and Careers in Singapore’s Emerging Digital Economies

–        In this brief talk, we will share some emerging plans related to the entrepreneurial activities through which young Singaporeans leverage digital media to combine their leisure interests with productive labor. Examples of such entrepreneurial activities include e-sports participation, livestreaming and uploading gameplay, various forms of vlogging from health and fitness to unboxing videos, and establishing social influence through social media platforms. Our research questions deal with three sets of concerns: connections between entrepreneurial youth cultures and larger socio-cultural processes and structures; processes of defining and learning appropriate digital media skills; and the social and personal outcomes of these entrepreneurial activities. In the talk, we will tie these concerns existing theory and research on youth cultures and digital literacies, as well as explain some of methodological choices.



1230 Lunch
1330 BREAKOUT GROUPS (to be planned at discussion session)
1530 Closing


Vivian Chen, NTU

1600 Tea/Refreshment


Organised by Vivian Chen and WKWSCI

Supported by the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the NTU College for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

CFP: Spectating Play, 24-25 April 2017

Spectating Play – 13th Annual Game Research Lab Spring Seminar 24th-25th of April 2017, Tampere Finland

Important dates

– Abstract Deadline: January 18th, 2017
– Notification of Acceptance: February 3rd, 2017
– Full Paper deadline: April 3rd, 2017
– Seminar dates: April 24-25, 2017

Call for Papers
This year’s Game Lab Spring Seminar focuses on the spectating elements of play. Below you will find detailed instructions regarding the CFP for this Spring Seminar.

Spectating play
Watching play unfold is almost as pervasive as play itself. Today, developments such as let’s plays, eSports, and streaming have made spectating play an important mode of engaging with digital games. Historically, sporting arenas have brought together not only skillful athletes, but huge crowds of spectators. The audience has an effect on the play, from the cheering of the fans of the home team, to rule changes implemented in sports in order to make them more television friendly. The spectator experience places different design considerations on a game than that of the player experience.

Digital games have always had spectators, be it in an arcade or a sibling waiting for their turn to play on the home console. However, during the last decade spectatorship has become much more visible, first through esports, and more recently through streaming. Numerous new genres of recorded play videos have emerged, from let’s plays to speedruns. Furthermore, the audiences of livestreamed games is hardly passive; amongst other things they comment, form communities, participate in playing, and financially support the players.

Simultaneously, in some play cultures the line between the audience and the player/performer is being blurred on purpose. From immersive theatre to larp and from reality television competitions to amateur livestreaming and onto phenomena such as the “Twitch plays Pokemon”, the structures around watching and playing are shifting.

Spectating Play is the 13th annual spring seminar organized by University of Tampere Game Research Lab. The seminar welcomes any and all scholarly work on the intersection of audiences and game/play.

The possible list of topics includes but is not limited to:

  • Streaming play
    • Live and recorded play
    • Genres: Let’s plays, speedruns, machinima, unboxing, reaction videos, etc.
    • Managing streamers and tubers
    • Production and business models of streaming
    • Cultures and practices of streaming
    • Boundary negotiation between work and play
  • Audience
    • Audience participation in games
    • Designing games for spectating
    • Audience theory for participant
    • Why spectate? Audience gratifications
    • Learning by watching (i.e. foreplayers, tutorials, walkthroughs)
    • Passive and ambient play
  • Performing for spectators
    • eSports
    • Performative game development (e.g. streaming, use of time-lapse videos and public game jams)
    • Arenas for play as performance
    • Arcade culture
  • Perspectives on spectated play
    • History of spectating play
    • The limits of recording as a document of play
    • How spectating play transforms into play practices

The seminar emphasises work-in-progress submissions, and we strongly encourage submitting late-breaking results, working papers, and submissions from graduate students. The purpose of the seminar is to have peer-to-peer discussions and thereby provide support in refining and improving research work in this area.

The papers to be presented will be chosen based on an extended abstract review. Full papers are distributed prior the event to all participants, in order to facilitate discussion. The seminar is looking into partnering with a journal so that the best papers would be invited to be further developed for publication in a special journal issue. In the past we have collaborated with Games and Culture, Simulation & Gaming, International Journal of Role-Playing, and ToDiGRA journals. The seminar will be chaired by Professor Frans Mäyrä (School of Information Sciences, University of Tampere) and Associate Professor Juho Hamari (UC Pori / Tampere University of Technology & University of Turku). There will also be two invited commentators, to be announced later.

The seminar will be held in Tampere, Finland and will be free of charge; the number of participants will be restricted.

Submission guidelines
The papers will be selected for presentation based on extended abstracts of 500-1000 words (plus references). Abstracts should be sent in the PDF format. Please use 12 pt Times New Roman, double-spaced, for your text. Full paper guidelines will be provided with the notification of acceptance.

Our aim is that all participants can familiarise themselves with the papers in advance. Therefore, the maximum length for a full paper is 5000 words (plus references). The seminar presentations should encourage discussion, instead of repeating the information presented in the papers. Every paper will be presented for 10 minutes and discussed for 20 minutes.

Submissions should be sent to:

Money & Games blog note, #moneygames

A quick note about the Money & Games seminar, based on the first day: I was expecting the relationships between money and games to be diverse and rather complex field, and I was not disappointed by the seminar. The idea that game could be seen as a straightforward product that someone just builds, and then sells to someone else for a fixed sum of money is not how things play out – and, as the historical reviews of the seminar pointed out, is not that typical about how things have been in the past, either. For example, the entire era of game arcades was based on coin-operated games, where the economic incentive was to design for short, micropayment style transactions: every time the player failed, the was room for another coin to be spend (something that Sebastian Deterding’s ambitious “Toward Economic Platform Studies” paper and presentation was particularly emphasising). Value of games and monetary and time-based investments are intricately intertwined, and it is clear that e.g. putting a higher price tag on something can mean that pleyers are more likely to expect it to be of higher quality, or value, than a cheap game. Thus, setting the right price involves theorycrafting practice of game business economics of its own – or “valuecrafting”, like the paper presented by Mia Consalvo suggested about indie developers. Free-to-play business model and the associated monetization strategies were particularly discussed in the seminar, with several interesting case studies focusing on that, plus the more philosophically oriented paper by Olli Heimo et al. used it, plus industry advertising practices as a target of (Aristotelian) virtue ethics based criticism. There were comments expressed in the seminar that the political economy angle of the entire free-to-play sector would be something that would be valuable at this point. On the other hand, while Janne Paavilainen presented the first results from a detailed micro-ethnography in Armoured Warfare game, pointing out the multiple “dark design patterns” or manipulative tricks that tempt the free-riding player to become a paying player, Markus Montola was quick to point out that many of the analysed design choices actually sounded just like good, regular game design that is balanced and appropriately both challenges and rewards the player – and Janne agreed that Armoured Warfare is an example of good game design; free-to-play payments are just used to make an already good game to play even better. Great papers, presentations, and discussions, thanks everyone! Also, our invited commentators, Pauliina Raento and Juho Hamari, did excellent job in providing commentary and guidance, Pauliina also giving a keynote talk of her own about doing gambling studies, about the lessons she personally has learned from her history in this field, and that made the valuable point about importance of bridge building between isolated academic communities. – Link to the seminar program page:

Skene: loppuseminaari

[I will be speaking in the final seminar of Skene r&d-program about the basic research and innovations in games tomorrow in Helsinki] Huomenna on Helsingissä Tekesin pelialan Skene-ohjelman päätösseminaari. Oma alustukseni on otsikoltaan “Pelitutkimus: yhteistyöllä innovaatioita ja tieteen huippuja”. Tapahtumassa on mukana vahva kattaus pelialan osaamista ja toimijoita – tapahtuman ohjelma löytyy täältä:

European Summer School in Games and Play Studies

Next two weeks will be intensive time in Utrecht, the Netherlands, as “Identity and Interdisciplinarity in Games and Play Research”, the joint European Summer School of games and play studies takes place at the Utrecht University. My keynote takes place first in Monday, August 18th, and it is titled “From Interdisciplinarity to Identity and Back: The Dual Character of Academic Game Studies”. More information and full program is available at:

Spring seminar keynote & commentators

We will have the 10th anniversary Game Studies seminar in the University of Tampere Game Research Lab next April. The updated CFP information now announces also the names of the seminar keynote and invited paper commentators: Espen Aarseth, Jesper Juul, and Bart Simon. Check out the seminar website and the full CFP text from here: